Food & Cooking

Cooking with family a joy for chef Geoffrey Zakarian, TCC’s Cleaver and Cork headliner

Despite the pandemic’s “devastating” impact on the restaurant industry, renowned chef Geoffrey Zakarian has found the silver lining — and it’s family.

“At the end of the day, it’s about time. How much time do you have to sit and do a puzzle with your kid?” said Zakarian, a father of three. “You’re setting up kids for a sense that this family thing is pretty good. I know I can count on my family.”

You can count on Zakarian — a chef, author, TV host and judge, restaurateur, philanthropist, businessman and James Beard Award winner — to be entertaining and illuminating as the headliner at the 2021 Cleaver and Cork, the premier culinary event sponsored by the Tallahassee Community College Foundation. This year, proceeds will benefit TCC’s athletic program.

He will be the latest Food Network superstar to visit the capital city for the annual fundraiser. Previous Cleaver and Cork dinners have drawn Chefs Amanda FrietagMarcus Samuelsson and Alex Guarnaschelli.

Zakarian said he would like culinary arts students to see beyond the glitter of celebrity chefdom to “get a sense of what’s realistic from someone who’s been through it.”

“You’re living in 2020 and you’re thinking ‘oh my gosh,’ but there was a before and there will be an after,” he said.

Zakarian had a degree in economics, but before getting his MBA, he went to Europe and fell in love with food. “Everything was fresh and perfect,” he said. “Being a chef found me.”

Since March, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian has made the transition from studio to home kitchen, doing segments on the QVC channel for his line of kitchen products, called Pro For Home.

But first a young Zakarian worked hundreds of hours without pay as a young apprentice, learning and loving the craft. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and began working at Le Cirque, learning under French master chef Alain Sailhac, one of his mentors along with famed chef Daniel Boulud.

In 2001, Zakarian opened his first restaurant, Town, which was awarded three stars from the New York Times. He has since moved on to own other restaurants, primarily in New York City and South Florida but they are temporarily shut down due to the coronavirus.